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A disturbing (?) notion about talent

November 20, 2012

Sketchbook drawing in oil pastel showing "stuckness"

Here’s the crux of it: talent has to be practiced. Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code  says that “Greatness isn’t born. It’s grown.” I buy that to some extent, but his premise and supporting research go far beyond the notion of work, work, work in your studio to find your style, make your mark, create work that is personal and meaningful… and I’m only on page 57.

The idea is that you have to work smartly. Work on the edge of obstacles or your perceived limits so that you encounter problems, go backwards, go forwards, make mistakes, and correct them. It’s called deep practice. The result is that those nerve pathways that you use in the practice begin to build more myelin coating, and more myelin coating results in faster response and more skill.

The good part is that we all have the opportunity to become good at something, and there is research that supports engagement and practice rather than talent to do that. The bad part is that the effects of age, past experience, etc. on creating that skill haven’t been answered by page 57. In other words, is there a point at which the return on deep practice is reduced? Hmmm.

Back to practicing more drawing for me–to regain skill in transferring a notion or idea to canvas, or maybe just to reassure myself that I still CAN draw something when I want to, since I work mostly in abstract layers, accidental images, and collage.  That’s a whole ‘nother puzzle.

Sketchbook drawing in oil pastel of triangles--right side up and upside down

practicing triangles…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Gary Gima permalink
    November 26, 2012 9:45 am

    I think it’s true that you develop a skill or a talent the more you exercise that particular skill or thought pattern or whatever you are doing. Just as in most other areas of our lives, as we do more of it, it becomes easier. That said, art comes from within, from deep inside you. This may not be true of representational art where someone is perhaps “reproducing a scene” that they have a picture of. Now if they are creating that scene from there imagination or memory, that would be different. It may lend itself to more technical skill to reproduce such a painting more than the ability to express images from within oneself. Abstract art is just that, drawing upon ideas, images, thoughts, memories, etc. and applying that to canvas. One may find oneself recreating what one previously created as your memories become more clear, or how you feel about it changes day by day. Anyway, that’s my non-artistic thoughts about it. My myelin sheaths are geared more towards power tools, so who am I to say anything about art (unless electricity and gears are involved).

    So I imagine that as you practice the ability of being able to express what’s inside you, you get better at applying your ideas, images, thoughts, etc. onto canvas… I wonder how long it took Picasso to express his thoughts onto canvas, how he saw the world or a scene, and applied that onto canvas… that would be a good question to ask him, if he were still around… I wonder if we would even understand his answer…


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